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Geek Squad and Customer Service

On Tuesday, I wrote about how the bloggers were out to get you and how some companies do a great job at working with bloggers while others do not. I said I would focus a post on Tom’s experience as well as the Radio Shack experience sometime later this week. Today is the day.

The Geek Squad:
Look at Tom’s overall experience:

  1. He wrote a post about poor customer service he experienced at The Geek Squad. It listed the frustrations he had experienced and what The Geek Squad could have done better.
  2. Tom got an email from Geek Squad founder Robert Stephens. In his email, Robert said he wanted to work with Tom to resolve any issues. Though Tom doubts that it was actually Robert who sent the email, he worked with several senior and frontline Geek Squad employees and got the issue resolved.
  3. He got off the phone with a senior employee from Geek Squad and had another email from Robert saying it was him.
  4. Tom posted a follow up post about the the experience dealing with the various people.
  5. He summed up the whole experience with another post. The experience was a good one and Geek Squad saved themselves a customer as well as a generated some good worth of mouth among bloggers.

On The Geek Squad’s part, Tom’s experience was not handled much differently than a standard escalation. The only difference was that Tom posted the issue on his blog and a high ranking company executive (in this case, the founder) noticed it and responded to it. The actual issue was handled pretty much the same way any good company would handle an escalation.

It boils down to: not that much work, a lot of benefit.

Perhaps you guys will be seeing an interview with someone from The Geek Squad in the not too distant future. Anyone from the company listening? Send me an email. The email address is on the about page.

Radio Shack:
Radio Shack did pretty much the opposite of what the Geek Squad did. They don’t seem to monitor the blogs or the Internet for feedback about their company and it seems tough to get an issue to be escalated (and resolved) as a customer.

Why can’t they start monitoring (or even hire people) to watch the blogs and the Internet for feedback about their company? It isn’t that hard to do and as we saw in Tom’s example, can certainly pay off.

Mike Faith: CEO & Founder of Headsets.com – Part 3 of 3

Here is part three out of three of the interview with Mike Faith, the founder and CEO of Headsets.com. Part one is here. Part two is here. In this part of the interview, Mike discusses where Headsets.com still has room to improve, how they are different, how they gather feedback, and tips for other customer service organizations.

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Mike Faith: CEO & Founder of Headsets.com – Part 2 of 3

Here is part two of the interview with Mike Faith, the CEO and Founder of Headsets.com. The first part is here. This part of the interview covers more about the company’s hiring and training, how they keep their customer service culture going, and common issues they run into.

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The Bloggers Are Out To Get You

Writing about bloggerseffect on customer service is fun. Reading about it is even more fun. Lots of links in those two sentences. The first sentence contains links to where I have talked about bloggers’ effect on customer service or more specifically, issue resolution. The second sentence are links to posts about Tom’s experience with The Geek Squad.

Some companies actually do monitor the Internet, including the blogosphere for mentions about their company. HP does. Headsets.com does. Automattic does. And we now know that The Geek Squad does. These are just companies that I have written about and can recall – I’m not even looking too hard to find companies that do.

Some companies believe the bloggers are out to get them. Companies that think like this are usually under the impression that blogs are not professional and have very little influence. They think that every blog is like some teenagers’ LiveJournals where they talk about their friends and what they happened to buy at mall the previous day. This couldn’t be further from the truth and not even all teenagers blog like that.

The thing is, that blogs are an overgrowing medium. Individual blogs are getting more traffic. Blogging networks are getting bigger. Blogs about particular subjects are getting easier to find. Posts about a particular subject are getting easier to find.

If your company gets featured on TechCrunch, well over a hundred thousand people will see it. Your product featured on Engadget and/or Gizmodo? A few hundred thousand more people will read about it. Obviously, not every company or product is featured on such a blog, but for the ones that are, it can make a big difference. If you get a good review, it’ll be good for business. If you get a bad review, it will almost certainly be bad for business.

Expand the scope a bit further.

Read about Seth Godin’s experience at Radio Shack. He wasn’t even directly involved – he was just there. At the time of writing, the post has about 10 trackbacks. It has likely been viewed tens of thousands of times. Radio Shack has already taken a hit about it. Popular blog posts are often featured on digg. This may mean tens of thousand of more readers.

What companies have to do is follow stories like these as they develop and deal with them accordingly. It would be too optimistic (and probably impossible) to prevent failures of customer service like these from happening in the first place, so it is best to at least deal with them when they do happen.

Imagine if an executive from Radio Shack posted a message like this one as a comment:

Hi Seth,

Would you mind emailing me with the name of the store you happened to be at? I’d like to talk to the manager and see if we can find the customer and fix the issue. Radio Shack doesn’t support this type of attitude and we’d like to fix the issue.

Sincerely,

Generic Name
Customer Service Manager
Radio Shack, Inc.

Wouldn’t that make a difference? It shows that Radio Shack is listening and cares. The exact words could go be spruced by PR or whoever, but you get the point. Doing nothing is what Radio Shack did wrong.

Doing exactly what I suggested is what The Geek Squad did right (see Tom’s post). The founder of the company emailed Tom and said they were working to resolving the issue. The company stayed on top of things and followed up with Tom. His issue was resolved and the Geek Squad turned a negative customer service experience to a positive one. I’m sure Tom will tell the story quite a few times (heck, even I will) and think about The Geek Squad when he needs his computer fixed.

So why aren’t companies listening? They should and it isn’t hard to do. More about Tom’s experience as well as the Radio Shack experience later this week.

Interview: Mike Faith, CEO & Founder of Headsets.com

I’ve been excited to post this interview since I first mentioned it in September. I’ve talked quite a bit about Headsets.com, mainly because they are a very interesting and fairly unique company. They have really embraced customer service and it has paid off.

I interviewed Mike in mid-September and it took a few weeks for me to get the time and finish writing out the whole interview. Then, we had to go back and forth a bit with clarifications and such. After that, I had to wait until I had a few free days of posts to get the interview posted, which took about ten days. Now, I’m finally ready to get it posted!

This interview will be three parts (all posted over this week). The first part of the interview talks about Headsets.com’s customer service-oriented model and philosophy, their hiring and training processes, and the company culture. Click on “More” to read it.

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Surveys – The Longer Version

On Monday, I talked about an article related to customer surveys. The article was quite helpful and gave some interesting advice, but I’d like to add a few things to it. First of all, here are some good posts I have done related to surveys:

The six point scale.
The six point scale was probably one of the best pieces of information in the article. A five point scale allows customers to pick a middle ground, but a six point makes them go to one side or the other. Many companies use a 10 point scale, which also works.

Studies have shown, though, that customers who say “Satisfied” or “Agree” (usually 4 on a 5 point scale) are as likely to switch to a competitor as those who say “Neutral” (usually a 3 on a 5 point scale). This is something to keep in mind when reading survey results. 5’s (not 4’s) are what matters.

Don’t make customers wait.
As I mentioned in the post about gathering feedback, have a feedback button on your web site. Don’t make customers wait until they are sent a survey so they can provide their thoughts – always ask for it and always use it. Send regular “How are we doing?” surveys after support tickets are closed, etc. HP sent me a survey after I used their live chat – it provides a good example of an effective survey.

Give the customers something.
Like the article suggests, be sure to give customers some sort of incentive to filling out your survey. It may be a $5 gift card or a nice little notebook sent to them in the mail – but make it something. If your survey is long, you should definitely offer something to your customers for filling it out. If the survey is shorter, you can probably get away with not offering anything.

Test the survey.
I never mentioned testing the survey in previous posts. It seemed obvious to me, but it is a good idea. Ask a few employees or people you know to take it and provide their feedback. They may see something you are missing and be able to help you fix it or at least provide their opinions.

The other items I think are pretty well covered in my posts and the article. You should try send out surveys after few months. They will help give you a good idea of where your customer service department is and where you still need to improve.

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The Big List of Things Not to Say (Intro)

There have been a few posts around about things customer service representatives shouldn’t say. There are a few posts and informational articles on this subject, but none of the lists are too complete and there is always more to add

I’ve decided to compile a list of things that customer service representatives should not say and include the alternatives that they should say. I’m working on this list with several other customer service bloggers and authors and it will be available as a free PDF download on Service Untitled.

If you phrases that you think customer service representatives should not say (as well as alternative things they should say) – feel free to post a comment or email me with your suggestions. All contributors will be given a link to their blog or web site and appropriate credit in the PDF.

Here are some posts related to the subject:

This is a good list to compile, because it is easy enough for representatives to remember. Following the fairly simple guidelines of “say this instead of this” is not complicated at all and can make a difference. The list will be fairly short (goal is one page) and can be put right in a customer service training book or manual.

Eventually, there will be a few of these quick one page, cheat sheets on customer service available for free download to anyone who is interested. If you have any suggestions for good topics to cover, post a comment or send an email.

By the way, I’m using Windows Live Writer to write this post – hopefully it will work well.

Who are you? The importance of cross-searching. Part 2 of 2

The point of the story, though, is that for some reason, the system at the company I called was not good enough to find out that I had called 10 minutes before, had explained my problem, and had been given a case number.

This is an example of the software not working for the company. The point of the software is that it should work for your benefit to make things easier for how you want to do them (not the software). You should purchase software that works for you and your customers. IT is a big part of customer service – the technical systems that allow representatives to deliver service are extremely important and can make a difference between effective and ineffective customer service. Use your IT resources to develop or purchase systems that will work for you.

Another thing you can do to make “cross-searching” more feasible is to make it a regular part of your system and operations. Instead of using ticket numbers, case IDs, etc., base your data on your customer. Ask them for their name, then their email address or telephone number. Then, when the customer calls, the representative can look at the account and say “I see you called us recently. Is this related to the issue you were having with your monitor?” instead of saying “Is this related to Ticket #92391-FJ-1382-UI7?” Using the customer’s name and email address, telephone number, etc. makes the experience far more personal (and easier for the customer) than ticket or case numbers. Customers have an easier time remembering their name and email address than a ticket I.

Train your employees to cross-search and base searches around the customer, instead of just ticket numbers or case IDs. They will get used it and may even prefer it over the previous system.

Plus, basing searches on the customer allows the representative to quickly look at the customer’s profile as a whole. The representative can easily see how many times the customer has contacted the company before, how big of a customer they are, any notes on the customer (upcoming events/occasions, etc.), etc. This allow the representative to better personalize the customer service experience for the customer, know how big of credits to give if necessary, whether the issue should be escalated right away, etc.

Now, should I start giving out reader IDs to everyone who reads Service Untitled?

By the way, I am looking to do a survey of my readers. If anyone works for or knows of a good (and free) service or company that makes a script that I could use to do the survey, please let me know by posting in the comments or emailing me (email address is on the about page). If you work for a company that does surveys, feel free to contact me and perhaps we could work something out. If the service or script is good, I am sure I will be using it in the future on Service Untitled as well as other projects.

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